‘Cappy’ reviews his long career

BEAVER TOWNSHIP — Local sports historian John Caparanis readily admits that he takes things a little slower than he might have five decades ago.

His zest for spreading the word about the sports accomplishments of current and former Mahoning Valley athletes, coaches, administrators and teams, however, remains abundant.

Addressing the Curbstone Coaches at Monday’s weekly meeting at Avion Banquet Center, Caparanis said he still has the time of his life making sure those involved in sports from Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties are not forgotten.

“I’ve broadcast over 1,500 basketball games, 1,000 football contests, a little over 500 baseball games, and even did play-by-play for tennis, swimming and hockey,” the Warren G. Harding High School and Ohio University graduate noted. “While calling the play-by-play for YSU football and basketball, as well as the early years of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, you got to meet people you’d ordinarily never meet, while making friends whose company you would never be in if it were not for sports.”

Affectionately known to his friends and followers as “Cappy,” Caparanis hosted his highly acclaimed ‘Tip of the Cap’ sports talk show on both WBBW, 1240-AM, and WNIO, 1390-AM, for over 15 years, recalling how he has been able to interview some memorable and not-so-memorable characters from the world of sports.

One memorable interview was with legendary New York Yankees outfielder and baseball hall of famer Joe DiMaggio.

“I had the pleasure to meet and interview both Joe DiMaggio and Tommy Lasorda, as well as Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince when they would come in for Ray Travaglini and Sandy Petruso’s VIP Banquet, which was held at the Eastwood Mall,” he said. “Joe was a complete class act and I could not have been more grateful for the time that he afforded me.

“Lasorda gave his typical ‘Bleed Dodger Blue’ routine while Prince also had a talk show in Pittsburgh, in addition to serving as the voice of my team since childhood. Each was special in their own way and made me feel special and at ease behind my microphone.”

Caparanis recalled the genuine exchange between himself and Larry Doby, the second African-American player to break Major League Baseball’s color line and the first to play in the American League.

He also found Cleveland Indians’ third sacker Al Rosen and pitcher Mel Harder approachable, as well as Cleveland Browns running back Marion Motley, who went on to become the second African-American to be enshrined in the pro football hall of fame.

“I idolized the Pirates’ slick fielding second baseman Bill Mazeroski, as well as the Cincinnati Reds slugging outfielder Ted Kluszewski, the latter in part because my mother was Polish and because he would go on to play with my beloved Pirates,” Caparanis said. “I interviewed Maz at the old Fonderlac Country Club and asked him if he thought he’d ever make it to Cooperstown.

“He owned 12 National League fielding records, set seven new MLB standards and his reply to me was, ‘probably not.’ He added that while fielding is one-third of the game, voters still preferred to cater to hitters and pitchers.

“When he finally got the call to join his peers in the hall, in typical Mazeroski fashion he broke down and cried at the microphone during his acceptance speech. He was such a classy and appreciative player.”

Caparanis’ mentor in the broadcast industry was former Cleveland Cavaliers and Indians play-by-play man Joe Tait. Their relationship started during Caparanis’ collegiate days at Ohio.

“I was Joe’s student sports director at WOUB AM-FM during my college days in Athens. He gave great advice and tremendous guidance to both me and my staff, advice that I still draw on today when I am broadcasting,” Caparanis said. “He was great friends with Dr. Vernon Alden, Ohio U. president at the time, and his dream job was to be a broadcasting professor at Ohio University. The Cavs and Indians, however, had something to do with him changing his mind.”

While serving in the Vietnam War, 1st Lt. Caparanis had the opportunity to hone his craft by interviewing a contingent of touring NFL players, which included running backs Floyd Little of the Denver Broncos and Tucker Fredrickson of the New York Giants, along with St. Louis Cardinals defensive tackle Chuck Walker.

“The best part of meeting those guys was former Ursuline High School football star Paul Maguire was a part of the travel party,” said Caparanis, an Ohio Baseball Hall of Fame honoree. “We talked for what seemed like forever about local sports and the many polka bands that hailed from our area.”

Caparanis called Joe Garagiola one of his very best interviews, with Sugar Ray Leonard a close second.

“I talked straight baseball with Joe Garagiola for about 20 minutes and he really was one of the very best at his craft,” Caparanis said. “The five-minute interview Sugar Ray’s group promised me turned into well over an hour, so needless to say both guys are two of my all-time favorites.”

Next Monday, local boxing trainer and promoter Jack Loew will serve as guest speaker.